In recent weeks (months? years?), I’ve been thinking about how voting, and politics in general, tends to be handled nowadays in the good ol’ U.S. of A… It doesn’t matter if you agree with the vast majority of what a particular candidate, or congressional bill, you stand for: if there is one hot-button issue you disagree with, that means you simply can’t vote for it. Around election time, we call these people “single-issue voters,” those that typically decide that they like everything a candidate says, but since they’re Pro-Life (or Pro-Choice, occasionally…) and the candidate disagrees with that one issue, that means you can’t vote for them (the death penalty is another one that fits that bill, amongst many others, I’m sure).
I think of this more recently in the context of the on-going health care debate. As Obama said in his Address to Congress on September 9th, 80% of what is in “the bill” (or, more accurately, the various iterations of bills floating around the halls of the Capitol) is agreed upon by both Democrats and Republicans. They all want to get rid of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, they all want to keep costs down, they all want to increase competition, etc….but as long as that “public option” is on the table, some won’t support it. Since when is 80% not “good enough?” In school, that constitutes a “B,” which while not being an excellent grade, necessarily, is certainly good enough for graduation and a half-way decent GPA. That’ll get you into college. That’ll get the job done.
I think, largely, many people agree on the vast majority of issues: murder is bad, babies are cute, hair should be washed, and so on. And years ago, the U.S. government got along fine with the agreement on most issues related to their debates, when finally they would compromise and get something passed (yes, it’s true…although, living in today’s society makes us forget that government can work for the benefit of its citizens, and can do so efficiently). Today, however, we find ourselves in an era of conflict. Who wants to watch a reality show about a happy family? Or a cop drama when no crimes happen? People nowadays won’t pay attention to anything unless there is some conflict, something to fight over. Maybe people have always wanted conflict to entertain them, and perhaps politicians finally realized that and figured out that, to make more money from donors, they need to be in conflict all the time in order to get extra exposure, and thus, extra cash.
What angers me most is that compromise doesn’t happen anymore, perhaps of that “conflict craving” (heck, I’d argue that the divorce rate is so high mostly because of a lack of compromise). There was a time when it behooved both sides (in marriage or congress) to agree most aspects of a plan and then focus on a more central issue: both sides would lose something, but both would also make gains because the goal was met. That’s how compromises work. It has worked well for centuries and should still work today.
It angers me because the compromise, in the particular issue of health care, is the so-called “Public Option,” as that is the logical middle ground between a single-payer system and a fully deregulated health insurance industry. The compromise is on the table already and it isn’t “good enough” for some people. Both sides agree on the majority of issues related to the debate, but the single issue holding it back is one where the compromise has already been made, providing both sides with necessary gains for their political careers, as well as American society as a whole.
Maybe “good enough for government work” is 80%? Or at least should be?